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• Super Mario Sunshine

developed & published by Nintendo
1 player / Nintendo GameCube / 2002.8.26

Super Mario Sunshine

With Super Mario Odyssey returning the series to open-ended level design, I felt now was a good time to replay Super Mario Sunshine. While it was generally well received, Sunshine has dropped on lists of the best 3D Mario games in the last 15 years. But does it deserve this new reputation, and if so, why?

• The Legend of Zelda – The Wind Waker HD

developed & published by Nintendo
1 player / Nintendo Wii U / 2013.9.20

Wind Waker HD artwork

Having just completed The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild, I wondered how well The Wind Waker would hold up. Originally released on the Game Cube in 2003, the HD remaster arrived on the Wii U a decade later. Not only was it easy to get back into, in doing so I was struck by how many of its ideas blossomed in Breath of the Wild.

• Vandal Hearts

developed & published by Konami
1 player / SONY PlayStation / 1997.3.27

Vandal Hearts box art

Konami threw its hat into the turn-based strategy RPG arena with Vandal Hearts on the PlayStation, an unusual move for a publisher that had virtually no genre experience or reputation. Perhaps as a result Vandal Hearts makes no attempt to reinvent the wheel, owing much of its design and mechanics to mainstays Shining Force and Tactics Ogre. What it brought to the table was glossy 32-bit presentation, which for 1997 was more than enough reason to play it, and which set the standard for games that followed.

• The Legend of Zelda – Majora’s Mask 3D

developed by Nintendo & Grezzo, published by Nintendo
1 player / Nintendo 3DS / 2015.3.13

Masks are present in almost every human culture, and some are said to spiritually transform the wearer during sacred rites. Despite this, scant few videogames feature masks as a primary element in either story or game design. Nintendo cleverly introduced this universal concept to The Legend of Zelda with Majora’s Mask, giving the hero new abilities unlike anything players had seen in earlier Zelda games. The N64 original was rushed through production to quickly repurpose the engine and assets developed for Ocarina of Time, and as a result the game’s designers found many quirks to fix when remaking it for the 3DS.

• Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

developed by Naughty Dog, published by SONY
1 player / SONY PlayStation 3 / 2007.11.16

With the introduction of the PS3, Naughty Dog once again threw its old franchises to the wind with the new console generation. Now it would try its hand at something less cartoony and more Hollywood. The result was Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, heavily inspired by the likes of Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, and run and gun shooters, and it instantly became one of the console’s flagship series.

• The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time 3D

developed by Grezzo & Nintendo, published by Nintendo
1 player / Nintendo 3DS / 2011.6.19

It would have been easy for Nintendo to create a 64-bit Zelda game in the same style as those that had preceded it (that’s what most of its competitors were doing at the time, see Alundra or Legend of Oasis). Or it could have recreated that style in 3D polygons, ala A Link Between Worlds. Of course, that wouldn’t have been anywhere near as worthwhile as the game we got. Ocarina of Time became an instant hit when it made the jump from 2D to 3D perfectly, a dangerous leap that killed many other classic franchises. After more than a decade, Nintendo released a fully updated version of this masterpiece for a whole new generation of players on its 3DS handheld.

• Demon’s Souls

developed by FromSoftware, published by Atlus, Bandai-Namco
1 player / PlayStation 3 / 2009.2.3

Sony clearly didn’t know what they had on their hands when they produced FromSoftware’s Demon’s Souls, opting not to publish it outside of Japan. It’s easy to see why: the game has an oppressive difficulty; it doesn’t explain itself very well; and it isn’t as flashy as its contemporaries. Ultimately this lack of confidence in the title would come back to bite Sony when it unexpectedly became a cult classic, earning a reputation for being a hardcore action RPG.

Soon afterwards FromSoftware created a spin-off called Dark Souls that would no longer be exclusive to Sony’s brand, by which time the Souls series was primed to explode in popularity. It just goes to show that sometimes hits can come out of left field. Sadly, many would not get to experience the game that started it all.

• The Legend of Zelda – A Link Between Worlds

developed & published by Nintendo
1 player / multiple saves / Nintendo 3DS / 2013.11.22

Home sweet home. Or is it?

A Link Between Worlds is a direct sequel to A Link To The Past, and I finally got around to playing it. I hesitated out of love for the original. The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past isn’t just a great Super Nintendo game, it’s a bonafide masterpiece. For me, there was a lot at stake when Nintendo decided to create a direct sequel.